It can throw you for a loop when you see someone somewhere you don't expect.
That's what happened when I ran into BMW's Tom Purves walking around the SAE exposition in Detroit last week.
Purves is a knowledgeable car guy, but I think of him as being on the sales and marketing side of the business, not the nuts and bolts side. Yet there he was, strolling the aisles and marveling at gadgets and widgets.
Normally, you would expect to see Purves at international auto shows or the National Automobile Dealers Association convention. He's also right at home at American International Automobile Dealers Association events. Last year he did a great job as the featured speaker at AIADA's breakfast meeting on Capitol Hill.
Purves was at SAE because BMW was the sponsoring automaker this year, and as CEO of BMW North America, he had a role in welcoming the engineers. As part of the company's determination to make the show a success, BMW also brought some German reporters to Detroit. One -- a former colleague -- had never been to SAE before but said it was useful.
Everything worked out OK for BMW and SAE, though it was obvious when you were walking around that the exposition wasn't as big as it was in its heyday and probably never will be again. Some of the exhibitors grumbled that floor traffic could have been better.
SAE pitched this year's shindig as the comeback congress, and in some ways perhaps it was.
But next year the annual event is likely to be supercharged when the sponsor is Toyota. That's because Toyota will want to have a big presence in Detroit that week and so will all of its suppliers and supplier wannabes.
You can bet on it.
You may e-mail Edward Lapham at [email protected]